Tributes to former owner of Aberdeen’s Cooper’s Bar

Jim Cooper
Jim Cooper

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved publican whose family have been at the heart of the Aberdeen bar scene for generations.

Jim Cooper, former owner of Cooper’s Bar on John Street, died suddenly on Sunday January 13 at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, aged 89.

The publican was born on March 19, 1929, just off Holburn Street, into a family with a knack for the trade.

His father, Peter Cooper, worked as manager of Winter’s Bar, which he went on to buy and rebrand.

Peter Cooper on the right, and his sons Pat Jnr in the middle, and Jim on the left. (Press and Journal)

Before Winter’s became Cooper’s, Jim himself was working as manager of the Fittie Bar, after returning from national service with the army, which saw him stationed in Singapore.

Once home in the Granite City, he would often amble up to see his father in Winter’s Bar, and occasionally drop into the paper shop where a Molly Mudie worked.

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She was widely-known, having come from a respected farming family in the Skene area of Aberdeen.

One day, armed with two tickets to the local farmers ball, she plucked up the courage to asked Mr Cooper to accompany her to the event.

Romance soon blossomed and the couple married in 1954.

They had two children: Linda, who went on to move to America, and Bruce, who became a captain with British Airways.

Despite his successful family life, Mr Cooper was best known for his work as manager of Cooper’s Bar.

He and his brother, Pat, initially combined forces to help their father at Cooper’s Bar, which fast became a staple of Aberdeen’s pub scene.

Even faced with an “awful” fire in 1968, the bar team managed to recover and rebuild into an even better venue than before.

Jim (James) and his father Peter were quoted in the Press and Journal on July 22 1969 after a fire broke out at their bar.

The bar re-opened on September 17 of the next year and went on to become a city destination for functions over the years, hosting events, weddings and even a gig by Runrig, before they reached the heights of international fame.

An advert placed in the Evening Express on September 17 1969.

While Mr Cooper is now gone, his publican legacy remains both in Aberdeen and America – through two of his grand-children, Ian and Scott, who run their own pubs.

John Sievwright, Mr Cooper’s son-in-law and wife to Linda Cooper, said: “Jim was a very generous man and welcomed me in the family so well.

“His publican skills ended up skipping a generation, with two of our three children now in the business.

“Scott owns MacDuffs Public House in Greenwich, Conneticut, and Ian has another branch of the pub in South Lake Tahoe, California, both of which are Scottish-themed.”

MacDuffs Public House in South Tahoe, California

Stewart Spence, owner of the Marcliffe Hotel, came to know Mr Cooper when he joined the Licence Trade Association in 1972.

He said: “He was a stalwart of the licensing trade, and really the last of a generation of traditional publicans.

“I remember he was always suited and booted whenever he was working, I always admired how immaculate he kept himself and the bar.

“Everyone in Aberdeen knew Cooper’s – and he set the standards for other bars across the city.

“I’m lucky to know his family well know – and was able to keep up with him into retirement.

“He was a great man and a great publican.”

Mr Cooper’s American family had been planning to revisit Aberdeen for his 90th birthday in March.

Despite the publican’s sudden illness, he and his family were able to spend the festive period together.

Mr Cooper is survived by his loving wife Molly, children Linda and Bruce, grand-children Iain, Scott, Kirsty, Laura and Molly, and great-grandchildren Sophia and Mila.

His funeral will be held at Baldarroch Crematorium, Crathes on Tuesday January 22, at 2.30pm.

All friends are respectfully invited.